To have any ability to understand the body and how it functions, or how things go wrong, you need to have a basic understanding of the brain and how it relates to the particular system you’re looking into. As a Neurokinetic Therapist what I operate most directly and frequently with is the motor control center. This portion of the brain is the primary part of the brain that creates, stores, adapts and chooses motor patterns for the demands the conscious (and somewhat unconscious) will of the brain. This means if you decide to pick up a glass of water or hit a baseball going 90mph, your MCC is what decides exactly what selection and order of muscles and tissues will be used to accomplish it, making for a nearly indescribable orchestra of movement to accomplish even minor tasks.

The MCC does not simply work alone, however; it’s ‘orders’ come down from above in the form of “I’m thirsty,” to the volitional command “let’s get water.” It is more than the chain of command, though. The limbic center is like the roommate and partner of the MCC. They have very separate responsibilities in many ways but they are also inextricably connected. The limbic center is a collection of functionally related ‘parts’ in the brain (so too is the MCC) and is a very important part of our emotional brain but it also is vital for forming memories. More than just what we typically think of as memories, the limbic center also contributes to emotional memories and learning motor skills as well.

Most directly, when we enter an extreme fight or flight situation the limbic center functionally takes over the MCC and throws you into one kind of action or another. This alone makes them very closely bonded, but the part that I am really interested in for this discussion is the impact of emotions, injuries, the memories of both and their impact on the MCC and our physiology. First however, a thought towards some of our bodies ‘prime directives.’

Our job as living beings is to A: survive and B: reproduce. There are many particular aspects of this but it basically comes down to getting food, and avoiding dangers from starvation, exposure, and predators. All of these require quite a lot of movement. Without movement, as humans, we die. Movement is as such a complete requisite for life as humans, and so our brains primary roles are movement and threat assessment/avoidance. If your brain perceives a threat this becomes the biggest and most vital thing it can focus on. There may be multiple threats and it will have to approach them all as it’s able with an appropriate hierarchy of priority.

This is what drives the compensations of the MCC; a perceived threat to a joint or other body part which if allowed to continue could lead to a serious injury which could end mobility and by that result in death. Certain trade-offs result like an unstable knee in exchange for a more stable structure due that was compromised by a non-functioning core, etc. There are many things beyond the MCC that act powerfully and near singularly in focus to react to a perceived threat, pretty much all systems as able in their own way. For example the body perceives caloric restriction as a threat of starvation and has a considerably complex reaction which shuts down the metabolism to wait it out ‘until spring.’

The extreme and direct perceived threat that triggers the limbic center to directly take over the MCC and its function is the perfect example of this, but it’s not the only way or degree that the limbic center intervenes on our physiology and MCC in general. Think now to the interplay between the limbic center and the MCC for perceived threats, as well as emotional and memory processing. We can see in NKT testing that with negative thoughts, especially of traumatic events that this alone can blow out a test. I don’t personally have the qualifications to work with this, but the effects are very real in their impact on MCC function due to perceived threat.

When your body gets injured it doesn’t just show up in the physical tissues, your brain remembers it. If it’s no big deal it may not matter, but some things you don’t think are a big deal your brain disagrees with because it creates a significant perceived threat, possibly from a perceived vulnerability due to the injury and the compensation strategies it had to use to cope with it. An injury by itself can create quite the memory, which I see quite often in injuries of the joint that must be resolved in regards of the brains threat assessment of it (you must show it that the vulnerability is no longer present by tapping into the memory directly with appropriate proprioception and intervention).

However where things get more complicated and are very much outside of my purview of practice is when an injury is not just physical but also a very emotional occurrence. Most severe injuries have an element of this simply because it would be emotional and thus the tissue injury memory and emotional memory are both created and have a related but not necessarily one entity. Meaning you can fix the fascial memory where that’s not an issue anymore but the emotional side is still active.

One of the clients I had been working with for some months with movement, before coming to NKT had been having some real mobility limitations and so we went more thoroughly into her history than I would have before NKT and she had had a traumatic hip break about 25 years ago. It was a side impact car accident at age 18 requiring a full cast. The first responding officer also tried to place the blame on her (he appeared to have something against the local youth she tells me). Given these factors and the severity of the injury it should surprise no one that there was emotional content. We could find issues that explained the specific dysfunctions but none of them would stick, even with the help of an advanced practitioner.

Another common example is when you work on someone who has been abused. As much as I wish it weren’t the case, the incredible emotional stress involved in being abused, even psychological/verbal abuse that has no physical element must be dealt with by an appropriate professional. Many times even if it has been addressed by a psychiatrist or other therapist it seems to continue in some way, but more often than not it has not been properly resolved and is repressed in some form or another from conscious thought but is still highly active as a perceived threat which is interfering with MCC function and proper structural and functional stability.

Because of the linked nature of the fascial and emotional memories many of us have had someone start crying on the table, often without the patient having any idea why. Or it may even be an incarnation of the permeable nature between the conscious-subconscious barrier of the limbic/MCC where they feel threatened or vulnerable in a testing position or during a test (kind of like you don’t feel safe doing certain exercise movements, or on some unstable surfaces). The former lets you know an emotional issue is lying under the surface and their crying may actually be realizing it, but unless you’re qualified to do so I would immediately send them to someone to can help them confront it. Some of the latter may also indicate the same course of action but can just be the MCC letting the conscious brain know that it doesn’t know how to safely complete the action requested and is basically ‘asking the manager for help.’

This is basically what it comes down to practicing in rehab, especially from the perspective of NKT, is that the limbic center is king. It doesn’t just forcibly take over in emergency situations but impacts our function in every aspect because of the effects of perceived threat which it funnels into motor operation. Simply having a more stressed life or outlook may impact things, causing generally increased ‘neurological noise’ which may make things not as clear in testing and make things just work a little bit less optimally, but its these traumatic injuries and abuse that we should be most aware of and screen for. If you find an issue but it won’t stick then you haven’t been working on the real cause, which may in this case be an emotional one.

Just before getting to this paragraph I had to go off and meet with a client for a session and a perfect example of this concept and working with it as a movement therapist came up and especially as she’s a mental therapist and found interest in a discussion of the topic we decided to try a technique that another trainer at my facility was using this week. I was having my client do some dexterity step-ups on a large tractor tire, where she was supposed to step up, into and to the other side and down. The tire was only 18” tall and she’s done step-ups higher than that before but she consciously knew she couldn’t do it and couldn’t get herself up onto the tire.

This client had been in a severe car accident at about age 18 if I recall (now in her 40’s), a side impact resulting in the fracture of her illium, this being the same client I mentioned above. I placed the tractor tire in the middle of a squat wrack and wrapped an elastic band from the top of the structure to wrapping under her arms. With this added sense of security and stability she was no longer above her perceived threat threshold. With her hips being in a ~90 degree flexion in the car crash and the use of the hip this may have been a limbic situation, or it may have just been the MCC letting her conscious brain know it didn’t feel stable enough to let her do that within a range of joint safety, but with the added support either way she stepped up like it was nothing, mentally and actually.

Come Monday we will be doing some checks on this issue but we will be slowly lowering the degree of added stability to this technique to increase the ‘range of comfort/safety’ and raise the perceived threat threshold regardless of the cause. This may not alleviate any limbic complications but it may lower the severity of their effects. I am referring her to my intuitive bodyworker, who specializes in this kind of ‘emotional healing.’

I have had the luck of experiencing his work myself and have sent numerous clients in his direction for dealing with acute traumas and abuse that have physiological symptoms (aka disrupted MCC). He does a light bodywork which I imagine is filled with energy work like intentions, while taking you verbally through the emotions and incidents that are related. By this method he works on the limbic center and MCC at the same time, and the memories there of so that limbic based dysfunctions can be removed from motor patterns. I personally have never felt such a profound change in my own body and felt some core activation I’d never had before right after my session. People who do tapping can get some similar results I imagine, but I believe this technique can actually interfere with some of the neural-memories of fascial injuries, especially in joints.

The discussion of neural injury-memories will wait for another day though. This interplay between the limbic center and the MCC, especially when it comes to memories of or current states of limbic perceived threat is vital to ensuring that your patients’ physiological dysfunctions can be concluded, by another practitioner if not yourself.

Filed under: The Practitioners Corner

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